Chris, general manager for a local mechanical contracting company, told Session 5 of Turbo’s Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
“Early in my career I was working as a Project Engineer for a custom pressure vessel fabrication shop. After about three years, the Chief Engineer (my boss), was fired and replaced by Steve, the most unpleasant person I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I consider myself a pretty easy going person, and have the ability to get along with anyone; this guy was the exception! It didn’t seem to matter what I or anyone else at the company did – it was never good enough for Steve. He made it his mission to negatively critique the work of everyone in the company, not just those of us who reported to him. Despite this, I made my best effort to get along with him, and worked very hard at doing my job well.
“One evening after a couple of years of putting up with Steve’s behavior, I was invited to join some of the guys after work for drinks. One of our coworkers was taking a job on the east coast to be near his family and we were seeing him off. Several of the guys were taking turns commenting (very negatively) about Steve. Because I was surrounded by people I had worked with for years (all of whom I considered friends), and possibly encouraged by a little social lubricant, I ended up speaking my mind about Steve. I told the guys what I thought of him and what it was like working for him. No one seemed particularly surprised by my comments, and most seemed to agree.
“The following day, Steve said, ‘We need to talk RIGHT NOW,’ and shuttled me off to the conference room where we could speak in private. He had gotten wind of what I’d said and was quite upset. He proceeded to tell me that I needed to ‘get with the program’ and learn to like him immediately or he would not only fire me, he would ruin my career as well! One of my ‘friends’ had broken my trust about my comments from the previous night. I was FURIOUS! I learned that nothing is ever ‘off the record.’
“As a side note – I later left that company. I could no longer continue to work for (or around) Steve. Since that time, while my career has continued to advance, Steve’s has regressed. He is currently working in a position below where I was when he was my boss.
“And the ‘friend’ who broke my trust? After that day, I only spoke with him on a strictly business basis.
“The lesson I learned from this experience is to be very careful about condemning even the most dysfunctional behavior. The action I call you to take is to never betray the trust of your team. The benefit you will gain is personal and professional success.”